Walking into a dining hall at the University of Maryland brings with it a plethora of options. I honestly find myself on many occasions taking a lap or two around in an attempt to decide between the many different stations.
As a college student, we have more than enough things to choose from. Between french fries, gyros, pizza slices, build-your-own sandwiches, ice cream, cake, everything our hearts could possibly desire is within arms reach every single day with nothing but a quick swipe of an I.D.
Dining couldn’t possibly be made any easier. The most energy we have to exert is a short walk to the dining hall and waiting in line for maybe 10 minutes, tops. Someone else is taking the time to prepare our food and cater (quite literally) to our every whim.
Despite these essentially limitless options, complaints begin to arise. Everything from the excessive sodium content and the repetitiveness of fried foods comes up in conversation and even a slightly bruised banana can’t go unnoticed. Excuses to eat elsewhere surface and the dining hall suddenly becomes less and less inviting.
One Saturday morning and by no accident, my alarm went off at 7 am.
I got up, got ready and tagged a ride from a friend to a local food drive. This being my first time volunteering at such an event since I was in middle school, I didn’t exactly know what to expect.
I walked in to boxes upon boxes of donated produce; everything from clementines, apples, peppers, tomatoes, grapefruits and yes, even slightly bruised bananas.
Around 10 am, the line of people began filing in, eager to trade in their handful of tickets for a week’s worth of food.
It was amazing to me the things that brought these people immense happiness.
I mean, I never before associated a bag of clementines with smiles, probably because I’m so used to having an abundance of produce available to me everyday, excessive to the point that I can’t eat them fast enough and they’re left to rot in my mini fridge.
I realized that I’ve grown insensitive to such things. I never before considered myself an ungrateful person, but my perspective on food was exactly that.
After all was said and done, not even one slightly bruised banana was left unclaimed. All the oranges were given to grateful families. Dozens of apples, cartons of tomatoes and bags of grapes were appreciated — not by the people who distributed them, but by those who were on the receiving end.
My perception of food changed from that day onward. As bad as things could seem, it would be much worse to have nothing at all.
Maybe the dining hall food is incredibly salty. Maybe it’s not super healthy, bland in color, taste, flavor or all of the above.
But you know what, when put in perspective, we are much luckier than most, and our attitudes should reflect such.